Should Estevan Florial Fit Into the Yankees Future Plans?
Should Estevan Florial Fit Into the Yankees Future Plans?
Late October Thoughts by Cary Greene
October 22, 2023
Today’s article is a tribute to Andy Singer - SSTN’s Senior Writer, and the author of the one regular article I never miss: The SSTN Weekly Mailbag! After eagerly reading Andy's latest edition, I began to ponder his many outstanding points and I seemed to focus on the future of the Yankees former uber-toolsy can’t miss prospect Estevan Florial.
Personally I don’t think Florial, at this stage of his career, is an everyday centerfielder who a team should plan around. That said, I think he will be a late bloomer, and either a patient team with plenty of roster spots with which to stash prospects in the hopes that they will pan out, or a team that happens to acquire Florial at the right point in his development, might just strike one heck of a cost saving bargain.
As Andy pointed out, Florial is very toolsy, but he doesn’t believe that Florial is a good defensive center fielder. Some time ago, I wrote a piece that attempted to define which position on the diamond was the most important defensive position. Here’s the chart my research came up with:
As you can see, the data suggests that the lion's share of the batted balls that reach the outfield, wind up going to centerfield. Meanwhile, advanced fielding data contradicts Andy’s opinion on Florial’s defense. StatCast had Florial at 1 OAA in centerfield this season and rated him with plus ability when moving to his right and going back on balls. His Arm Strength was meanwhile rated in the 64th percentile in MLB. I contend that Florial is a fine bet to be an above average defensive outfielder at the Big League level. I don’t think he’ll ever turn into Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays, but I’m fine with Florial’s defense and in fact, it’s his aptitude on offense that concerns me the most.
Adjusting to Major League pitching requires a Quadruple-A player, which is what I believe Florial (like so many Yankees prospects seem to be) is right now, to make significant adjustments at the plate in order to become viable Major Leaguers. Therein rests the real challenge for one Estevan Florial.
Like many seemingly wonderful Quadruple-A players, who seem to be stuck in limbo between certain death as a professional baseball player or a glorious career as a multiple time All-Star, Florial’s Triple-A numbers were quite enticing. The chisled 6’1” 195lb Florial posted a .285/.380/.565 slash line this season with Scranton, logging in with an impressive .403 wOBA and a 130 wRC+ across 482 at-bats while jacking 28 home runs and driving in 83 runs. His 13.3% BB-Rate and his 19.9% K-Rate were not red flags, but rather, they were quite the opposite.
Florial’s Triple-A season showed that the super toolsy prospect is starting to catch on. He turned the corner at the highest level of the minor leagues. Unfortunately, the Yankees are out of time with the soon to be 26-year old former super prospect. In prospect speak, the famous rock band Styx kind of sums thing up with the following quote from one of my favorite songs of theirs:
“The jig is up, the news is out
They’ve finally found me
The renegade who had it made
Retrieved for a bounty.
Never more to go astray
This will be the end today
Of the wanted man!”
For whatever the reason(s), the Yankees internal talent evaluators just aren’t high on Florial. In my mind however, a centerfielder with raw power, speed and a decent arm profiles as worst case, a player worth not giving up on or best case, an incredible home grown prospect and answer in centerfield for a team that has been truly starved at this position ever since Burn Baby Burn retired (Bernie Williams).
As I recall, Bernie Williams batted .238 in his first 300 at-bats with the Yankees and things turned out pretty well in that instance, thanks to Buck Showalter being the centrifugal figure in keeping Williams orbiting with the Yankees despite then team owner George Steinbrenner’s desires to trade him. The Boss was frustrated by the team’s difficulty in placing Williams in any of the traditional baseball player molds. Bernie had good speed, but he rarely stole bases due to his poor baserunning instincts. In centerfield, he could track down fly balls and line drives, but he had a well below average throwing arm. He made consistent contact but he had very little power at the time he was vying for a roster spot.
In this writer’s mind, Florial is a prospect that the inept Yankees coaches absolutely have to work with. They need to acclimate him to Big League pitching and if they fail in this endeavor, heads need to roll – starting with Brian Cashman’s. Besides being perennially starved for a centerfielder, the Yankees haven’t had a good left fielder since they snubbed Brett Gardner and turned in the direction of any number of players who either stunk up the joint or got injured.
It also so happens that Florial hits with authority from the left side of the plate, which makes him the rarest of rare breeds. If Brian Cashman loses Florial for nothing or trades him for a pathetic return, I will be lashing out with my pen even more than I already have in today’s article. I’m beyond fed up with Mr. Cashman. I’ve had enough of his and the organization's ineptitude.
With all of this written, I am 100 percent in favor of signing Cody Bellinger. Bellinger is an elite defensive centerfielder who also happens to play first base exceptionally well. He also bats left-handed. The Yankees easily have room for both Bellinger and Florial on the roster and given that the team doesn’t have a left fielder presently, there is zero reason not to carry the highly affordable Florial for the 2024 season. Florial deserves a chance, he’s fresh off a very promising minor league season.
There’s no denying that the Yankees struggle like mad to translate their prospects. Success stories are few and far between with this broken, Bronx based franchise. Is Florial going to become a starting centerfielder? Is he better suited to be a left fielder or perhaps a 4th or 5th outfielder? Let’s turn to the comments section today to flesh all this out.
Mark me down for still wanting my favorite team to continue to work with Estevan Florial, who due to a series of injuries, didn’t exactly develop as quickly as his advanced age suggests he should have. In this writer’s opinion, the Yankees should take a Stick Michael type approach on the grounds that Floral has power and he makes the team stronger up the middle. This is the way. The Yankee way!